Monday, November 12, 2012

Mark Shea congratulates Obama voters...

...sarcastically, of course, for voting for the dronicides of innocent children.

Drone strikes fail the Just War test in many ways, but most of all because they disproportionately harm the innocent.  For every one actual bad guy they allegedly kill, they kill, maim, or wound dozens of people who were committing the crime of Being in the General Vicinity.  Obama supporters, especially Catholic ones, should reflect on the fact that their guy in Washington seems awfully fond of killing children in the name of freedom and safety--both the unborn, the just-born, and the children of people among whom terrorists might allegedly be lurking (because, hey, the child might grow up to be a terrorist too).  Like Mark says: own it.  Go ahead and admit that you weren't even trying to vote for lesser evil.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A post at my other blog re: drone warfare

How can we American Christians turn blind eyes to the horror of drone warfare and what it's doing to the children of the Middle East?  I wrote about it here:

Drone wars: the empire strikes children and American citizens

Comments welcome.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Are you okay with a secret government kill list?

Because I'm certainly not.

Neither is Jason Kuznicki.

Nor Kyle Cupp.

Nor Mark Shea.

Nor Thomas McDonald.

There is no justification in the moral law which would allow any government official to maintain a secret list of enemies--including American citizens--who can be ordered to be killed without arrest, trial, due process, or anything else.

And that's assuming they really are guilty.  Much of the time our efforts at remote-control extra-legal executions kill innocent bystanders.

This.  Must.  Stop.

If you think that the question is not whether we must have a kill list, but whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney is the better man to have this power, you have already lost the election no matter who wins.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Do Catholics have to vote for Romney?

Short answer: no.

Longer answer here.

The bottom line: whether or not one truly believes that Romney will do more to limit harm (despite also supporting intrinsic evils) than Obama and that there are proportionate reasons to vote for him will determine whether or not a Catholic can vote for Romney.  Those of us who remain unconvinced that Romney will limit harm and/or that there are proportionate reasons to vote for him despite the intrinsic evils he supports should not feel pressured to vote for him.

Of course, those of us who think that about Romney have long ago ruled out Obama, and most Democrats...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Archbishop Charles Chaput on the death penalty

Interesting words recently from Archbishop Charles Chaput on Americans and the death penalty:

Turning away from capital punishment does not diminish our support for the families of murder victims. They bear a terrible burden of grief, and they rightly demand justice. Real murderers deserve punishment; but even properly tried and justly convicted murderers — men and women who are found guilty of heinous crimes — retain their God-given dignity as human beings. When we take a murderer’s life we only add to the violence in an already violent culture, and we demean our own dignity in the process.

Both Scripture and Catholic tradition support the legitimacy of the death penalty under certain limited conditions. But the Church has repeatedly called us to a higher road over the past five decades. We don’t need to kill people to protect society or punish the guilty. And we should never be eager to take anyone’s life. As a result, except in the most extreme circumstances, capital punishment cannot be justified. In developed countries like our own, it should have no place in our public life. [...]

Most American Catholics, like many of their fellow citizens, support the death penalty. That doesn’t make it right. But it does ensure that the wrong-headed lesson of violence “fixing” the violent among us will be taught to another generation.

As children of God, we’re better than this, and we need to start acting like it. We need to end the death penalty now.

Read the whole thing here.

May God bless Archbishop Chaput for his leadership on this and many important issues!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Indefinite detention: the cost

From the "How could we have known?" files: another death at Guantanamo:

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The latest prisoner to die at the U.S. base in Guantanamo, Cuba, was identified Tuesday as a Yemeni man with a history of mental illness who battled guards inside the prison and challenged his confinement all the way to the Supreme Court.

Adnan Latif spent more than a decade at Guantanamo, where he repeatedly went on hunger strike and once slashed his wrist and hurled the blood at his visiting lawyer. He also received mental health treatment at the detainee hospital, according to his lawyers and court records.

The government accused him of training with the Taliban in Afghanistan but he had never been charged and the military said there were no plans to prosecute him.

Latif was found unconscious in his cell inside the maximum security section of Guantanamo known as Camp 5 on Saturday and pronounced dead a short time later, according to a statement from the U.S. military's Miami-based Southern Command. It said the cause of death remains under investigation. He was the ninth prisoner to die at Guantanamo. [...]

Latif was well known in the small community of lawyers and human rights activists who focus on national security issues and Guantanamo because his legal challenge, which was turned back by the Supreme Court in June, was considered a major setback in the battle against the policy of holding men without charge at the U.S. base in Cuba. [...]

At one point, military records show, Latif was cleared for release. But the U.S. has ceased returning any prisoners to Yemen because the country is unstable and its government is considered ill-equipped to prevent former militants from resuming previous activities. There are about 55 Yemenis among the 167 men held at Guantanamo.

To sum up: a man never charged with the crime of terrorism, or with any crime, was held by our country because at one time we thought he might have been a threat; and though he was cleared to be released he couldn't go home, because his country is too unstable to prevent him from returning to the terrorist activities we never actually charged him with we let him deteriorate mentally and physically until he ended up dead.

But we're the good guys. Right? Right?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

He says it well

Mark Shea today, on American apologists for the evils of war:

The most characteristic American heresy, left and right, is the conviction that you can do grave evil to achieve a good end. The sole difference is which grave evil and which good end these political camps embrace. And they often justify their preferred evil by comparing it to the really truly grave evil of Those Guys Over There. Abortionists compare themselves to those truly horrible war criminals and congratulate themselves for saving innocent women. War criminals and their fanboys compare themselves to those truly horrible abortionists and congratulate themselves for saving innocent troops. All of them loathe the command against embracing grave evil that good may come of it that has been a core moral teaching of Holy Church ever since Paul penned Romans 3:8.

So: to reiterate, it is always and everywhere, under every circumstance, gravely immoral and worthy of the everlasting fires o hell to deliberately kill innocent human life. It is immoral for the abortionist and it is immoral for the soldier who deliberately shoots through the innocent civilian to kill the soldier standing behind him. That, in the final analysis, is what we chose to do at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I defy Catholic apologists to find a single Pope or magisterial authority on the planet who says such an act is not a “crime against man and God”. It’s high time we stopped making excuses for it, much less celebrating it.

Read the whole post here.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Why no-knock warrants are a bad idea

Imagine this scenario: you're at home, watching TV, and your front door is open (just the storm door is closed)--and the next thing you know an armed police SWAT team is breaking down the door and throwing flash-bang grenades:

Dressed in full protective gear, police broke the storm door of the home at 616 East Powell Ave. — the Milans’ front door was already open on the hot summer day. They also broke a front window. They tossed a flashbang stun grenade into the living room that made a deafening blast. A short distance away, a local television crew’s cameras were rolling. The police had invited the station to videotape the forced entry of the residence.

Stephanie Milan said she managed to remain calm because she knew her family hadn’t done anything wrong. Still, she was stunned and confused.

After speaking to Milan and her grandmother, Louise, police determined those inside the house had nothing to do with their investigation.

Police were executing a search warrant for computer equipment, which they said was used to make anonymous and specific online threats against police and their families on the website [Emphasis added--E.M.]

Police still haven't figured out if somebody hijacked the wifi signal or how the threatening posts appeared to have been coming from the Milan's address. But surely there could have been a bit more investigating before the police decided to storm into an innocent family's home, armed to the teeth and ready to take down the occupants?

A commenter below the news article had the best point of all, which is this: if someone threatens or harasses you on the Internet, the police will listen to your story, make a report and start an investigation file. They won't burst fully armed into the home of the person who has been making the threats. At least, not yet.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Is it torture when the police do it?

(Cross-posted at And Sometimes Tea.)

In case you missed it, here's a frightening look at the increased use of things that a sane nation would call "torture" by American police agencies on American soil against American citizens (Hat tip: Mark Shea):

After Daniel Chong was arrested in a federal drug raid, he wasn’t taken to Gitmo. Instead, the Feds thoughtfully arranged to bring Gitmo to him, nearly torturing him to death in the process.

Chong, a senior at the University of California-San Diego, was one of nine people swept up in an April 21 narcotics raid by the Drug Enforcement Administration. After his arrest he spent four hours handcuffed in a cell before being questioned. One of the agents who questioned Chong described him as someone who was "in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Following the interrogation, the student was told that he would be released and provided with paperwork to sign. He was then handcuffed and put into a five-by-ten-foot detention cell, where he was held for five days in conditions that qualify as torture under any rational reading of either domestic or international law.

The DEA’s story was that Chong was simply "forgotten." A likelier explanation is that he was ignored, or even singled out for deliberate abuse. Chong shouted and screamed for help, kicking against the heavy door of his cell. Although his hands were cuffed, he managed to tear a small fragment from his jacket, which he shoved under the door in an effort to get the attention of his jailers.

Since Chong had no difficulty hearing conversations and other sounds outside his cell, there’s no reason to doubt that his pleas were heard, and simply disregarded. [...]

By the time two agents "discovered" him, Chong was literally pleading for his captors to kill him. He was hospitalized for acute dehydration, renal failure, a perforated esophagus, and severe cramps. He had shed 15 pounds. He has never received an apology.

If a dog had been subjected to treatment similar to the abuse inflicted on Daniel Chong, those responsible would face felony charges. Thanks to the spurious principle of "supremacy clause immunity," there is no measurable likelihood that the people who nearly tortured Chong to death will face criminal charges. It’s quite likely they will never be identified.

There's more--a lot more--here, including the stories of the torture-death of a man named Nick Christie, another man named Raul Rosas, the physical abuse of Derena Marie Madison, and several more. The moral of all of these stories is that by condoning torture, we're increasingly choosing to turn a blind eye when it happens on our own soil, and to insist on the immunity of the police even when they cross a very bright line.

Is that really a surprise? In the moral realm, when we remove religion or other philosophical guidelines from questions of morality and ethical conduct, what are we left with except "might makes right?" And what protections do ordinary citizens have from the abuses of the people we trust to serve and protect?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The execution of an innocent man

Sorry for this blog's long silence--it has been a busy spring, and I'm finding it hard to maintain posting here.

But I wanted to share this (Hat tip: Deacon Kandra):

He was the spitting image of the killer, had the same first name and was near the scene of the crime at the fateful hour: Carlos DeLuna paid the ultimate price and was executed in place of someone else in Texas in 1989, a report out Tuesday found.

Even "all the relatives of both Carloses mistook them," and DeLuna was sentenced to death and executed based only on eyewitness accounts despite a range of signs he was not a guilty man, said law professor James Liebman.

Liebman and five of his students at Columbia School of Law spent almost five years poring over details of a case that he says is "emblematic" of legal system failure. [...]

The report, entitled "Los Tocayos Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution," traces the facts surrounding the February 1983 murder of Wanda Lopez, a single mother who was stabbed in the gas station where she worked in a quiet corner of the Texas coastal city of Corpus Christi.

"Everything went wrong in this case," Liebman said.

That night Lopez called police for help twice to protect her from an individual with a switchblade.

"They could have saved her, they said 'we made this arrest immediately' to overcome the embarrassment," Liebman said.

Forty minutes after the crime Carlos DeLuna was arrested not far from the gas station.

He was identified by only one eyewitness who saw a Hispanic male running from the gas station. But DeLuna had just shaved and was wearing a white dress shirt -- unlike the killer, who an eyewitness said had a mustache and was wearing a grey flannel shirt.

Even though witnesses accounts were contradictory -- the killer was seen fleeing towards the north, while DeLuna was caught in the east -- DeLuna was arrested.

Arrested. Sentenced to death. And executed. For a murder he did not commit.

There are many reasons for faithful Catholics to oppose the death penalty, but the executions of innocent people stand at the top of the list. Anyone who thinks this is an isolated incident hasn't been paying attention. It's time for Catholics to work together to end the death penalty in the modern world.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Slavery: still evil

A shocking story:
A New York woman who lives in a 34-room, 30,000-square-foot mansion is facing a federal criminal charge related to her employment of an illegal alien who allegedly served as a domestic servant in a “forced labor situation” that included her working 17-hour days, seven days a week, and sleeping in a walk-in closet.

Acting on a tip received by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, federal immigration agents last year removed the servant from the 12-acre estate (pictured below) on the Mohawk River in Rexford, a hamlet 20 miles north of Albany.

A subsequent criminal investigation determined that the woman--who barely spoke English and came from the Kerala state in India--was paid about 85 cents an hour during the 67 months she worked for Annie George and her husband (who died in a plane crash in mid-2009).
One of the problems of not working to solve the problem of illegal immigration is that these sorts of situations in which the immigrant is exploited and abused can flourish. But the answer to the problem is complex, as we all know. In the meantime, at least we can all agree that this kind of domestic slavery is clearly evil.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Rick Santorum and torture

Rod Dreher today has some interesting quotes from Andrew Sullivan regarding Rick Santorum's rather public dissent from Church teaching regarding torture. Rod writes:
I hope the moderator of tonight’s debate asks Rick Santorum how he squares his support for torture with his Catholicism. How does one hold the line on contraception, but ignore the line on torture?
I agree that this is a question worth asking. Both torture and contraception are defined as morally evil by the Church; how can one embrace the first and reject the second, while insisting that one is a faithful Catholic?

We must be careful not to be cafeteria Catholics in our voting, whether we line up on the left or right side of the cafeteria line. Evil is evil, and while there are sometimes prudential questions about the rightness or wrongness of certain wars or military actions, there are no prudential justifications for committing and supporting the evil of torture.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

It's torture when they do it

(Cross-posted at And Sometimes Tea.)

The medical group Doctors without Borders is leaving detention facilities in Libya over allegations that they were being used to facilitate the continued torture of prisoners:
Medicins San Frontieres pulled its staff out of detention facilities in a Libyan city yesterday after witnessing more than 100 cases of torture against inmates by the revolutionaries that overthrew Col Muammar Gaddafi.

MSF said it was withdrawing staff because it was effectively keeping prisoners alive so that authorities could continue to torture them. [...]

Christopher Stokes, the General Director of MSF, said the scale of torture in two detention centres in the city of Misurata was accelerating despite repeated pleas from the organisation for mistreatment to stop.

Some of the 115 inmates among the 1,500 strong prison population that MSF staff treated after torture were beaten so badly they could not stand, had suffered kidney failure and bore signs of electric shock.

Hundreds of prisoners, many of them black Africans, also told the organisation of suffering torture.

Mr Stokes said MSF medics feared that their work could be used to sustain the process of torturing prisoners. "When you patch people up and then they get taken back to be tortured again in the same evening, you become part of the process," he said.

"We have protested and in some cases they have said they will stop but in other cases they say it happens everywhere, like Abu Ghraib. If anything, the number of cases has been accelerating."

Poor Mr. Stokes appears not to realize that it's not fair to bring up Abu Ghraib in this context. The prisoners at Abu Ghraib were only being subject to enhanced interrogation, enhanced detainment, and enhanced violation of human dignity. It's perfectly obvious that these prisoners in Libya are actually being tortured, because it's always torture when someone other than Americans is doing it.

You see, what matters is not whether rubber hoses, electric shocks, beatings, cold cells, waterboarding or some similar method is employed. What matters is whose hands are on the other end of the rubber hose, the electric switches, the sticks or rods, the climate control settings or the flood of merciless water poured out to cause controlled drownings. If those hands belong to citizens of any nation in the world aside from the United States of America, then what we're talking about is clearly torture. But if those instruments are being employed by patriotic Americans keeping America and her allies safe from terrorism, then all of a sudden we just don't quite know what we're describing. Prisoner discomfort? Enhanced interrogation? A little splash of water on the face--quite nice, actually, considering that the prisoner may still be dripping salty perspiration into open wounds from the last bout of Congressional-approved enhanced chatting with a hostile detainee he just, experienced. In any case, it's not torture, because good red-blooded patriotic Americans don't torture people.

It's amazing to me how clear it is that torture is what is being alleged and what is being described in detention centers in Libya, when nobody could quite seem to see it happening in our detention centers, under our watch. Such loyal, patriotic myopia is also quite good in noticing specks and even planks protruding from the eyes of citizens of other nations, while utterly ignoring that our straining to see these things and avoid seeing our own similar defects has made us morally blind.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Positions of The Republican candidates on torture and related issues

It has been quite some time since I've posted anything on this blog; life has simply been busy, but I hope to remedy things as the 2012 election season heats up.

For today, I'd simply like to post the position of the various Republican candidates on the issue of torture/enhanced interrogation and related issues. I'm drawing my summaries from various sources, so I'll include a selection of links at the bottom of the post.

The candidates are listed in alphabetical order.

Gingrich: Has been quoted as saying that waterboarding is something America shouldn't do. Believes that Guantanamo should remain open until the terrorists disappear.

Huntsman: Opposes waterboarding; calls Guantanamo an "imperfect solution" but criticizes Obama for breaking his promise to close it.

Paul: Opposes torture and waterboarding as illegal and immoral; opposes Patriot Act; thinks Guantanamo should be closed.

Perry: Says he opposes torture but approves of enhanced interrogation which includes "any technique" used to save American lives. Supports keeping Guantanamo open.

Romney: Favors enhanced interrogation techniques and will not say whether waterboarding qualifies as such a technique. Has said Guantanamo could be doubled in size if needed.

Santorum: Voted to renew Patriot Act. Would continue using Guantanamo for terror suspects. Says that waterboarding is effective. Said John McCain didn't understand how enhanced interrogation works, that the object is to break a man so he will become cooperative.

Some sources: